Recognizing the Different Stages of Sleep

It turns out REM is not just your favorite 90’s band. The band is named after Rapid Eye Movement (REM), which occurs during the deepest stage of sleep where you experience the most dream activity.  There is also NREM or Non-REM sleep which occurs in four phases. Understanding the different stages of the sleep cycle can help you recognize and improve upon sleep disorders, so read on.

As the top sleep apnea doctor in New York, Dr. Shukla takes pride in tailoring sleep apnea treatment, pediatric pulmonology treatment, and allergy treatments specifically for every patient who he consults with.

NREM Sleep

This sleep is made of four phases (I,II, III, and IV), each of which last 5-15 minutes. Your body must complete all four stages before it can progress to REM sleep.

Phases of NREM Sleep

  • (I) During this phase, you may experience the sensation of falling, and it is the easiest stage to be awakened from. If you do wake up, you may feel like you haven’t slept at all.
  • (II) Here you begin to prepare to sleep deeply. Your muscles contract and relax, your heart rate slows, and your body temperature decreases.
  • (III) This is the first phase of deep sleep. Now, you begin to repair and regenerate bodily tissues, which may include bone and muscle building. It also boosts your immune system. Waking up during this time makes you feel disoriented.
  • (IV) Similar to phase III, but more intense. You are resting but are not yet asleep during the NREM stage. Trouble may arise when you experience the inability to transition to the REM stage. Older people often get less sleep than their younger counterparts, and this may help explain why they have more trouble healing and are more illness prone. People with disorders such as sleep apnea may experience similar problems.

REM Sleep

In addition to the Rapid Eye Movement that gives this stage of sleep its name, REM sleep is marked by brain patterns that are active at the levels that they are when you are awake. Although your brain is more active, your muscles become paralyzed during REM sleep. This has lead doctors to call this phase paradoxical sleep.  Heart rate, which slowed during the NREM phase, will now speed up, along with breathing. This is the time when you experience the most intense dreams. REM sleep usually lasts for about 10 minutes during the first sleep cycle and increases per each cycle throughout the night, up to one hour in the final cycle of your night. It is interesting to note that infants spend about 50% of their sleep in REM, while adults spend only 20% of their sleep in this phase.

How Many Hours of Sleep Do I Need?

  • Healthy Adults: 7-9 hours a night
  • Infants: Up to 18 hours per day
  • Children and Teenagers: Approximately 9 hours a night

What are the Consequences of Sleep Deprivation?

  • Increased pain
  • Impaired memory/cognition
  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Weakened immune system

How Can I Detect if I Have a Sleep Disorder?

Sleep problems can be a sign of a more serious condition. Consult your doctor if you experience any of these symptoms.

  • Loud snoring
  • Choking or gasping for air during sleep
  • Unusual movement while asleep
  • Struggling to stay awake
  • Morning headaches
  • Feeling irritable throughout the day
  • Struggling to concentrate while awake
  • Mood swings or feeling depressed

Steps to Good Sleep Hygiene

  1. Avoid tossing and turning by making sure you are fully relaxed and tired before going to bed. Read a book, take a bath, or do something else that is relaxing and not stimulating to reduce your anxieties about sleep.
  2. Make your relaxing activities a pre-sleep ritual and you will signal to your brain to prepare for bedtime, relaxing yourself further.
  3. Maintain a regular daily schedule, include a regular sleep/wake schedule. This will help your body clock stay in tune.
  4. Avoid any type of caffeine or alcohol within six hours of bedtime.
  5. Don’t ingest nicotine within two hours of bedtime.
  6. Regular exercise will make you more relaxed and tired at bedtime, promoting better sleep. But make sure not to do any strenuous exercise within six hours of bedtime to avoid stimulation.

Sleep Apnea Doctor in New York

Let Dr. Mayank Shukla help you improve your quality sleep by detecting your sleeping disorder. Dr. Shukla can develop a course of treatment to give you restful nights and active days.  The first step in getting a good night’s rest is to contact Dr. Shukla’s New York Sleep Center for more information, today.

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